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Memorials Honoring Women Scattered Across Nation

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 7, 2000 – The Women in Military Service for America Memorial is perhaps the largest and best-known tribute to women's contributions to the nation's defense and defenders. It's also only one of hundreds of its kind.

Statues and inscriptions etched into marble in parks, gardens, cemeteries and cathedrals honor military women, war correspondents, industrial workers, American Red Cross and Salvation Army workers -- and women who took their husbands' places on the front line after the men fell in combat.

At the ceremonial entrance to Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial is the first major national tribute to all military women -- past, present and future. It also recognizes women who have served in direct support of the armed forces, particularly during conflicts, in a special way called "We Also Served."

The memorial project completely restored a structure formerly called the Hemicycle and took about 11 years from concept to completion. Dedicated on Oct. 18, 1997, it attracted more than 162,000 visitors last year.

The Vietnam Women's Memorial, dedicated in 1993, is part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial complex on the Washington Mall. Congress authorized the memorial in 1988 to honor the "women of the armed forces of the United States who served in the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam era." The bronze statue by sculptor Glenna Goodacre of Santa Fe, N.M., depicts three women, one of whom is tending a wounded soldier. The statue is 68 inches tall and weighs one ton.

The memorial pays tribute to 10,000 women stationed in Vietnam during the war. It also honors the more than 265,000 other military women who served stateside and in other areas of the world during the Vietnam War.

Eight trees encircling the statue's site commemorate the eight women who died in Vietnam. Their names are engraved in the shiny black granite wall panels of the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

American Red Cross spokesperson Kelly Alexander said women are honored by several memorials and other tributes at Red Cross Square in Washington. Over the years, hundreds of Red Cross workers lost their lives while supporting American combat troops, she noted.

A sculpture dedicated in 1959 in the square's garden depicts two men and a woman of the Red Cross carrying a casualty during World War II. The inscription etched into the white marble base reads: "In honor and memory of the men and women of the American Red Cross who have given their lives in the service of mankind."

Nearby is a bibical-looking memorial dedicated to Jane A. Delano. "She was the founder of Red Cross nursing and health services and was in charge of Red Cross nurses during World War I," Alexander said. More than 295 Red Cross nurses died in service during the war. Delano later became the second superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps and died in France while inspecting Army hospitals after the war.

A verse from the 91st Psalm inscribed on the marble base of the Delano Memorial reads: "Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday."

Pointing to the front of the main Red Cross building, Alexander noted that it was built in 1917 to house the national headquarters executive offices and is now a national historic landmark. "In memory of the heroic women of the Civil War" is etched into the white stone above the building's tall white columns.

Inscriptions gracing the front of the Red Cross visitors, history and education center include: "In memory of heroic women of the world war," "And that this memorial may carry on the light of her service for the sick and wounded of war and for those who suffer from diseases," and "To the mothers who gave their sons for their country."

The only sculpture honoring Red Cross founder Clara Barton is inside the center. The bronze bust was presented to the Red Cross by the Armenian Assembly of America with the inscription, "To the American Red Cross in commemoration of their 100th anniversary of the relief mission to Armenian led by Clara Barton, June 5, 1998."

African American activist and educator Mary McLeod Bethune isn't normally thought of as a major contributor to the nation's defense efforts, but she lobbied the War Department during World War II to commission black women officers in what became the Women's Army Corps.

In 1944, Bethune became the national commander of the Women's Army for National Defense, an all-black women's organization founded on Nov. 15, 1942. The organization was created to seek "opportunities for service ... share in this fight for democracy ... and to provide an instrument through which our women could serve in this great crisis, with dignity and pride... ."

With the help of President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Bethune fought for better conditions for African Americans men and women in the military. The National Council of Negro Women, Inc. erected a huge statue honoring Bethune's many contributions to the nation on July 10, 1974, in Lincoln Park in northeast Washington. The three-person statue features the renowned educator and two students.

Several quotes from Bethune are inscribed around the larger-than-life-size statue: "I leave you finally a responsibility to our young people. I leave you also a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow man. I leave you a respect for the use of power. I leave you racial dignity. I leave you a thirst for education. I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another."

In northwest Washington, the Nuns of the Battlefield Monument pays tribute to more than 600 nuns who nursed battlefield casualties during the Civil War. The monument stands on the corner of Rhode Island Avenue and M Street.

The history of women serving in defense of America began more than 220 years ago with those who served in the Revolution and it continues with those who serve today, said Judy Bellafaire, curator of the Women's Memorial.

Several heroines from the Revolutionary War are honored with memorials, including "Molly Pitcher," who followed her husband to war and took his place at his cannon at Battle of Monmouth after he fell in combat, Bellafaire noted. Pitcher, whose real name was Mary Hayes, is memorialized on a stone pillar at the battle site, near the town of Freehold, N.J. A life-size statue of her also stands near her gravesite in her hometown of Carlisle, Pa.

A life-size statue in the town of Carmel, N.Y., honors Sybil Luddington, the "female Paul Revere." In 1777, 16- year-old Luddington rode cross-country to alert members of her father's militia to the British attack on the nearby town of Danbury, Conn.

A monument at West Point, N.Y., honors the deeds of Margaret Corbin during the Battle of Fort Washington, Bellafaire said. "When Margaret's husband was killed in the battle, she manned his cannon until she too was wounded. Corbin was the first woman awarded a disability pension by Congress for wounds incurred during military service."

A statue in the town of Martins Ferry, Ohio, honors Betty Zane's bravery during the siege of Fort Henry (present-day Wheeling, W.Va.), Bellafaire said. "When defenders of Fort Henry ran out of gunpowder in September 1782, Zane dashed about 100 yards to the storage shed, wrapped a supply of gunpowder in a cloth, and ran back to the fort through heavy crossfire," she said.

Two monuments in Arlington Cemetery honor civilian nurses who risked their lives caring for soldiers and sailors during a yellow fever epidemic of the Spanish American War. One is a shield-shaped monument dedicated to Dr. Anita McGee, who organized the civilian nurse effort during the war. Nearby, a Maltese cross, the symbol of the Spanish American War nurses, is carved into a rock in recognition of the women who died while nursing yellow fever victims.

"A white marble monument in Arlington National Cemetery stands guard over the graves of more than 400 Army and Navy nurses who died during World War I," Bellafaire said. "Many of them were victims of the influenza epidemic which swept across military bases and ports both in Europe and across the United States." It also honors the memory of Army Nurse Corps Superintendent Jane Delano.

Bellafaire said more than 300 of the nearly 500,000 American women who served during World War II died during the war, but there are only a few memorials in their honor.

Three statues honor members of the World War II Women's Airforce Service Pilots. WASPs served as test and ferry pilots and towed targets for student gunners. The memorials are at the Greater Wilmington Airport in Delaware; Avenger Field at Texas State Technical College, Marshall, Texas; and in the Jimmy Doolittle Garden of the Confederate Air Force Museum and Airfield in Midland, Texas.

A memorial to all "Women of the Sea Services" during World War II is on the Avenue of Flags at Wood National Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wis., Bellafaire noted.

Some memorials encompass all wars and both genders, such as the Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge, N.H., dedicated to all men and women who have given their lives for their country, Bellafaire noted. She said some of the pictorial stones set in the cathedral's "Altar of the Nation" honor military women of the Revolutionary War and the Indian Wars, the Army nurses who served in the South Pacific and at Anzio, Italy, during World War II; and Navy nurses who died at sea.

"These are only a few examples of tributes to women that are scattered across the country," Bellafaire said. "They're usually small statues recognizing a specific group, like the Navy WAVES -- Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service."

Contact Author

Related Sites:
Women in Military Service for America site at www.womensmemorial.org.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial page at www.nps.gov/vive/home.htm.
Vietnam Women's Memorial page at www.nps.gov/vive/memorial/women.htm.
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site at www.nps.gov/mabe/.
Jane Delano and the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org/museum/delano.html.
The American Red Cross Visitors Center is at 430 17th St., N.W., Washington and open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call (202) 639-3300 or fax (202) 639-1362.
American Airpower Heritage Museum (Confederate Air Force) site at www.airpowermuseum.org.
Monuments to Women Warriors site at http://userpages.aug.com/captbarb/monuments.html

Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe Women in Military Service for America Memorial is the nation's first major national memorial honoring women who served in the armed forces during all eras and in all services. Photo by Rudi Williams.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe Vietnam Women's Memorial is probably the most popular tribute to women's contributions to the defense of the nation. It's on the Washington Mall near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Photo by Rudi Williams.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSeveral memorials and inscriptions honor women at Red Cross Square in Washington such as this sculpture of two male Red Cross workers being assisted by a woman in carrying a wounded comrade during World War II. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA sculpture of Jane A. Delano, founder of Red Cross nursing and health services and leader of Red Cross nurses during World War I, stands in the Red Cross Square garden. Photo by Rudi Williams.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAn inscription on the base of a column on the front of the Red Cross visitors, history and education center at Red Cross Square in Washington. Photo by Rudi Williams.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA bust of Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, sits in the main hallway of the Red Cross visitors, history and education center at Red Cross Square in Washington. Photo by Rudi Williams.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA white marble monument in Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery stands guard over the graves of more than 400 Army and Navy nurses who died during World War I. Photo by Rudi Williams   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA larger-than-life-size statue of African American educator and activist Mary McLeod Bethune stands in Lincoln Park in northeast Washington. Among many other contributions to the nation, Bethune fought for better conditions for African Americans in the armed forces during World War II. Photo by Rudi Williams   
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